Friday, January 16, 2015

Moss on a Fence Post

Good morning! It's cold out there, a brisk 34 degrees, according to my phone. It's also dark and wet out there, but such is the life of a soul in the Pacific Northwest.

I've been looking at water. I guess I've always looked at water, moving and still, but I've been looking more closely at water in the past couple of days. I am a Pisces, after all. The funny thing is that I've found myself trying to take pictures of what I'm seeing. I'm a hell of a photographer and that's not a good thing. My photos are often blurry, badly composed and I have yet to figure out how to get rid of power lines through perfect settings. Just yesterday, I took a gorgeous shot of Mt. Si in the late-afternoon light. I failed to notice a dog pooping in the foreground. But, frankly, this is not about the quality of the pictures I take.

The other day, one of my random pictures took my breath away. I couldn't describe what I was feeling. I wanted to describe it. I had found ordinary moss growing on a fence post. You know, I tell my family in the Midwest that I can put a rock out in the fall and it will have a little green hat of moss on it by springtime. I don't think they believe me, not really. This was the same kind of moss that sprung up in my Mother's Day planter by September, replacing the petunias and the geraniums that were originally there. It's very pretty, but I noticed that it had tiny brown stems with tiny brown leaves or seeds or something that hang about a quarter of an inch above the bright green moss that I loved so much. The tiny brown stems originally looked to me like sad, dead little heads hanging there. When I first saw them in my planters, I was tempted to trim them off, to make the moss consistently green, to make it prettier.

I'm glad I didn't.

I hadn't really looked closely at this moss with its tiny little stems reaching above the rest by a full quarter inch. I hadn't really looked at them before last Sunday when I went for a contemplative walk with Teddy before I met some friends in Seattle. And, to tell you the truth, my vision isn't good enough to have seen all this without the help of the camera on my phone. But when I looked at the picture later, it took my breath away. I kept going back to the pictures I took of this one little hunk of moss that had grown on top of a fence post. I kept looking at the tiny little brown heads that hung over the moss. Each one held a perfectly tiny drop of water, as if that was it's only reason for existing. An entire universe of living in miniature opened up to me.

The next day, I tried to show a friend.

"You're a very good photographer," she said as she looked at my picture. I'm not. I know I'm not, but worse than that, I wasn't showing her for that reason. I felt deflated as I protested and she blithely scrolled through my other pictures, complimenting me. I wondered why she didn't pause longer on that one picture. Couldn't she see it?

The day after that, I tried showing another friend. I prefaced it with a long-winded rambling about looking at the stars and feeling insignificant.

He looked briefly at my picture and pulled out a couple he had taken of dewdrops on a rose. There was mild competition in his reaction. I wanted to stop him mid-sentence. Couldn't he see what I saw? Couldn't he see the perfection of the moss?

I thought for three more days, only once more telling a friend about my photo. I didn't even show it to her. I was afraid she too wouldn't see. I talked and talked but couldn't put it into words, even then. And then I decided to take my walk again. I decided to visit my tiny garden, the moss on the fence post, a microcosm.

That word 'microcosm' is the perfect for what I saw. I stepped quickly until I got to it. It was raining, but only that drippy kind of rain that we have here in the temperate rain forest. I found my patch of moss on the post. Did anyone else stop here to look at this small miraculous thing? Here was this miniature scene in front of me, magnified by my camera. I could see that this form of life had a completely different way of being, a way of existing within a different set of rules. Even the physics of a drop of water was different at this level. When you're this small, how do you hold onto water? How do you keep it from draining away?

You grow tiny little brown stems that hang a quarter an inch over your lush green leaves. Your tiny brown stems have two tiny brown leaves that perfectly hold a single droplet of water. And you quietly sip, as if through a straw. In this way, there is enough for you to grow.

I could see it. I could see perfection in this universe, as tiny as it was.

Thank you for listening, jb


  1. Ah I wish you had posted the picture here:) but your description is more than any visual, all the same.You take me to another world with your words, Julie.SO good to read your post after my hiatus. I have moved in to a new hose recently and just the other morning, as I stepped out into my backyard for some random chore, I noticed frost on the concrete below.Then looking over the wooden fence ( its quite low) I could see the tiniest crystals of frost clinging to the top of the dark brown, old wood..looking so delicate! How I longed to share that moment with someone I can understand how you feel about your moss :)

  2. Arti, that sounds lovely. I wish I could have seen your frost crystals. Amazing, aren't they? My wish for you (and me) is that your new home feeds your artistic soul.